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Watch Out, Conservatives!

Campaigns Gear Up for Ballot Fight

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By early next week, the secretary of state's office will have finished verifying all the signatures for this year's slate of ballot initiatives—the majority of which are being funded by conservative groups and activists.

However, one campaign has already emerged to fight two of the measures that are likely to show up on the November ballot. The Defend Oregon Coalition was created earlier last month to battle a strict state spending cap and something called "federal substitution," which would slash state taxes.

The spending cap, being championed by anti-tax group Taxpayers Association of Oregon, is based largely on Colorado's embattled Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) law that nearly bankrupted the state. It requires the state budget to be strictly tied to population growth and inflation—which would be disastrous to human services, say critics, because it doesn't take into account the fact that costs for services like health care often rise higher than inflation, and the growing elderly population requires more help than the general population.

"Federal substitution" is the product of longtime conservative activist (and failed gubernatorial candidate) Bill Sizemore, and would lower revenues for education and healthcare by as much $641 million, according to Defend Oregon.

The early attack by Defend Oregon should be refreshing to progressive voters—in years past, defensive campaigns (like the No On 36 campaign) have dawdled while waiting for signature verification. The results have been that progressives are stuck in a defensive position, with little time to organize an effective campaign.

Defend Oregon has already cobbled together a coalition of groups to support the campaign, including the AARP, the AFL-CIO, the Oregon Education Association, and Our Oregon. The group will largely have to contend with large contributions that will flow (and already have flowed) into the state by national anti-tax groups.

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